Art attack

Why the cries from climate activities will not deliver the outcome they seek.

Climate activists have, for some time now, chosen an interesting way to drive their point home.

They purposefully deface famous artworks to draw attention to the idea 'that should nothing be done about the crisis of climate inaction - then beautiful paintings will be worthless in a future world where people are fighting for basic survival'.

Just this past weekend - somebody defaced a priceless work by sticking a big red poster over Claude Monet's 1873 work Coquelicots.

Philosophically. yes. they make an interesting point, but is this the best course of action to affect change in the way that they are hoping? Probably not.

All they are really doing is drawing attention to and further alienating themselves from more constructive approaches to building the future they are hoping for. Historically there is very little evidence to suggest that protesting against what groups don't want has much success in creating what groups do want, but people do it anyway. Protest action creates the illusion that some kind of action is being taken, but in almost all cases - it's action that creates very little other than the protest itself. But when people feel incapacitated to do anything constructive because the task is simply too big and complex to address, then they resort to simply drawing attention to the issue through disruptive action.

Art most certainly has an important roll to play in painting alternative pictures that cultivate a craving (or disgust) for whatever is portrayed, but ruining historical works to simply make a point is malicious and lazy and counterproductive.

A better approach would be to get to work on creating alternative images of the future that are more compelling that our current reality. Images that compel society to pursue alternate approaches to how we live life now.

In his 1973 book The Image of the Future, Fred Polak showed that the most successful civilisations in history all had one thing in common; they shared and were guided by a common aspirational image of the future. This is obviously something that's missing from the climate protest narrative - and if we're all honest about it - something that is lacking in our modern societies in general.

It is easier to ruin a painting than it is to create one that touches people like the great masters were able to. Until these protest group understand this and honestly attempt their own reform, their cry will continue to fall on scornful ears.


Climate activist defaces Monet painting in Paris
Woman from Riposte Alimentaire arrested after sticking poster on impressionist painter’s Coquelicots
Climate activists throw mashed potatoes at Monet work in Germany
Two protesters pelt painting with potatoes and glue their hands to wall at Museum Barberini in Potsdam
After 38 attacks on art, climate protesters have fallen into big oil’s trap – it’s time to change tack | Giovanni Aloi
Repetition has blunted the art museum protests so much that the pumpkin soup assault on the Mona Lisa felt pathetic. More effective tactics are needed